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a quick report on my trip to Raptus 2003 in Bergen, Norway. This feature
is an overview of
scene itself rather than
a report on the Festival
Mike Collins, Lew Stringer, Dave Windett, John Armstrong, John Cooper
and Barrie Mitchell as guests. Pat Mills and Carlos Ezquerra and one
of my all-time favourite creators, Will Eisner, were also at the event.
to Arild Wareness and the rest of the Raptus team for inviting me.
Jenni Scott has written a report on the convention which appears on
Bullets web site.
The Raptus 2003 Comics Festival, part funded by the Norwegian government, proved
a busy event attracting some 5000 fans from across Scandinavia and beyond. Guests
included Will Eisner, Pat Mills, John Cooper and many European artists. I helped
arrange some of the guests on Raptus behalf as an unofficial UK liasion. Jenni
Scott has written a more detailed report on the event appears on the
Silver Bullets site, but the information below is about the Norwegian
Comics scene. This information is based in part on UK Comics Festival organiser
Kev Sutherland's comments on the event on the Comics2000
yahoo group and my own
observations and feedback from Norwegian creators and the convention organisers.
The number off new publishers and magazines hitting the Norwegian news stand
is staggering. This autumn four new magazines will launch from mainstream publishers,
their launch supported by government subsidies for new comics publishers, responding
to concerns at the amount of reprint on the news stands and also to promote Norwegian
creators. A committee meets regularly to decide which new creators and strips
should get a break. This funding also extends to assisting with the production
of albums and graphic novels, all of which means Norwegian comic creators don't
have to rely solely on the free market and have been supported in their building
of a popular audience.
The numbers off smaller publishers and underground magazines is also rising.
Major newspapers -- Norway has one of the most literate and well read populations
in Europe -- use their columns to give reviews of comics, and both mainstream
and underground strips get publicity. A typical newsagents has a healthy collection
of comics -- not just cartoon-based, like the UK. Disney's Donald Duck dominates
of course -- he is the most popular comics character, with over 100,000 sales
comic. While there are many import titles, there are many home-grown titles such
as Nemi (now published in the UK in Metro)
Thus on newsagents shelves you have Disney titles; Fox Kids; plus newspaper strip
anthology compilations such as Glen Larson's far Side, adventure magazines such
as Conan, Agent X-9 (leading with Modesty Blaise reprints) and The
by Egmont and edited by Ulf Granberg, who also edits Lew Stringer's strip Suburban
Satanists. While Fantomen does reprint some of the old Phantom newspaper strips
(along with Tom Strong), the lead 30-page strip is usually originated. These
strips are reprinted in English by Australia's Frew Comics).
There's also: Cosmic(an Image compilation), Marvel characters (Spider-Man,
X-Men - Marvel characters have started to be published in Norway in the same
format as Panini UK,
but on better stock), plus Nemi, Pondus (a newspaper strip anthology) - lots
of those on sale, Rex Rudi (a band who have their own comic strip -
Norwegian rockabilly?) and Gorilla.
Although I can't read Norwegian these are vibrant and fun, the Norwegian titles
-- all characters creator-owned -- are very MTV generation, vibrant and basically
fun with a sassy look to them, far more self-assured than any humour comic currently
published in Britain. They are published on good quality stock. They retail for
around 35 kroner, about £3.50 - £4.00. (Norwegian prices are about three times
as much as UK). The Nemi magazine is also using some reprint such as
dead girl zombie who accidentally kills a lot of people). It was Nemi that
led the resurgence in originated comics sales in Norway, with 70,000 sales in
alone. This is pretty impressive when you consider the population of Norway is
just five million... The strip is now running, uncredited, in Metro, across the
UK cartoonist Lew Stringer's Suburban Satanists is published in the Egmont title Herman Hedning. Herman is the lead strip; a sort of troll character. The comic is published as both a Swedish and Norwegian language edition.
Essentially, you have maybe a few more comics titles than a big UK newsagents
but dedicated shelf space is far more in even small newsagents, such as railway
stations. There's also a diversity of content and very few promotional gifts
on covers (in fact, Norwegian creators held up their hands in horror at the very
idea). Most publishing is on better paper stock and of a high quality.
On the magazines front, there is a huge amount of reprint going on from Emap,
IPC etc. with the same title (Digital Camera, Elle, Mojo etc.) but in Norwegian.
The same happens elsewhere in Europe of course, I saw the same kind of thing
Bergen's only comics and games store, Avalon, was also an experience. The layout
and stock is similar to, say, Forbidden Planet, but the layout is more spacious.
In fact all the shops I visited seemed to have more space except those in the
older quarter. Maybe they don't have rates like we do, since they're also able
to include a small cafe area.
US imports are plentiful as well as a section for homegrown comics and magazines,
foreign graphic novesl and a section of SF (US) books. Not much underground comics
in evidence though there was a small press section. Seems to be a big market
in comics stores for English language titles. Farscape Books spotted on sale,
and SFX. Sadly, no sign of Dreamwatch.
• Raptus Festival: www.raptus.no
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